Celebrate The Brave
Wendy Turner visits a unique war memorial in Cambridgeshire.
THE famous wartime band leader Glenn Miller disappeared on December 15, 1944, when flying over the English Channel to entertain troops in Paris. But he is remembered every day at the Cambridge American Cemetery.
His full name, “Alton Glenn Miller”, is inscribed on the Wall of the Missing along with over 5,000 American servicemen and women Missing in Action.
The Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial stands on land granted in perpetuity by the niversity of Cambridge in 1943.
Its wide, sweeping lawns are the final resting places for nearly 4,000 personnel who took part in the Battle of the Atlantic, the Strategic Air Campaign and the lead-up to the D-day Invasion.
They are buried without regard to rank, race or gender with headstones mostly in the shape of the Latin Cross but some with the Star of David.
Visitors are greeted by the Stars and Stripes flying from a tall flagpole. An extract from the Poppy Poem, “In Flanders Field” by Canadian WWI Army doctor Lt. Col. ohn Mccrae, adorns its base. The platform is encircled by 50 roses, one for each state.
A walkway leads from the flag around the lawn, lined by white hawthorn trees, tulip catalpa, beech, oak and sweet gum trees. It passes still and reflecting pools where families and visitors stop in quietness to remember the lives and stories of those commemorated here.
Near the pools, the Wall of the Missing honours those who never returned. All service personnel are named together with their posts, from cooks, firemen and gunners’ mates to hospital apprentices, signalmen and bomb squadrons, among many others.
A small rosette marks those since recovered and identified who have been interred or repatriated.
Rich Cobb, Superintendent of the Cambridge American Cemetery, says, “Our job is to tell the story of their service and sacrifice to a new generation in an inspiring way. We do this by using biographies of those who served, fought and died along with their British comrades. In Cambridge, our mission is also to celebrate and reinforce the special relationship between the peoples of the nited kingdom and the nited States.”
The Wall of the Missing is guarded by four larger-than-life statues of servicemen representing Coastguard, Army Air Force, Navy and Army. A frieze commemorates them. The Americans whose names here appear were part of the price that free men for the second time this century have been forced to pay to defend human liberty and rights. All who shall hereafter live in freedom will be reminded that to these men and their comrades we owe a debt to be paid with grateful remembrance of their sacrifice and the high resolve that the cause for which they died shall live eternally.
Many families visit from the SA to locate the names of loved ones on the Wall.
“Some like to take photos,” Rich says. “One problem is that flash photography tends to bleach out the names but we have a special way of countering the problem. We fill the carved name with dampened sand sent over from Normandy. The sand darkens when wet which adds contrast
and allows the name to stand out.
“Normandy was the first cemetery to use sand in this way and it is a symbolically powerful link with them. Both the method used and the link with Normandy are much appreciated by our visiting families.”
The path leads to the beautiful Memorial Chapel, its huge wooden doors showing reliefs of ships, tanks and military weapons. The interior is a mosaic wonderland created by artist Francis Scott Bradford.
Rich explains “After the war designs for the Chapel went to open competition, architects from around the world sent in proposals and Mr Scott Bradford’s was chosen. His stunning mosaics of angels and aeroplanes in vibrant blues and golds look modern even today and seem almost in motion across the ceiling.
“And while in the Chapel, many visitors spend time following the missions and routes of ships and planes displayed on the great wall maps, admiring the Great Seals of American States on the windows or just absorbing the amazing beauty of the Chapel.”
The Chapel basement houses a Carillon machine which plays three songs every day at 10 a.m., noon and 4.50 p.m.
“It’s a great experience to pause in your visit and listen to music playing over the grounds,” Rich says. “There are around one hundred and forty songs which play randomly. TAPS, Extinguish Lights’, is played at 4.30 p.m.”
A high-tech Visitor Centre packed with information, photos, personal stories, films and interactive displays opened in 2014.
“People come here for a family day out,” Rich says, “which may sound strange, but there is no need to feel awkward about enjoying a visit.
“Our role is to celebrate the lives of the brave who lived and died in service of their country and in so doing made the world a better place.”
Commissioned by Anne of Denmark, the wife of James I (reigned 1603-1625), and built between 1616 and 1638, the Queen’s House was the first building in Britain built in the classical style as well as the only part of the royal palace complex at Greenwich still standing.
Anne appointed London-born Inigo Jones (1573-1652) as architect. Jones had spent three years in Italy studying Roman and Renaissance architecture and this, his first important commission, was heavily influenced by his time there.
Though generally called Palladian in style, the prime model for the Queen’s house was the Medici villa at Poggio a Caiano, by Giuliano da Sangallo, with its design reflecting Renaissance ideas of mathematical and classical proportions and harmony. It was revolutionary in Britain, with the completed building looking very different from the red brick, rather higgledy-piggledy Tudor palace.
While this was not Anne’s first grand house (James I is also said to have given her the manor of Greenwich in apology for having sworn at her in public after she accidentally shot one of his favourite dogs while hunting), it was to be her last. Work stopped on the house in April 1618 when Anne became ill and she died the following year. Building only restarted when James’s son Charles I gave Greenwich to his queen, Henrietta Maria (daughter of Henri IV of France), in 1629.
When it was structurally complete in 1635 the new house was such a novelty that people called it “The White House”. Jones’s ideas went on to be taken up by Lord Burlington, Colen Campbell and William Kent, resulting in the Georgian style that is familiar in towns and cities all over the country.
The house still boasts original features such as the famous Tulip Stairs. This wrought-iron structure was the first geometric, self-supporting spiral stair in Britain. It is also the location of the Rev. R.W. Hardy’s famous “ghost” photograph taken in 1966, which appears to show two or three shrouded figures on the staircase – a phenomenon that has never been explained logically to this day. The house is also famous for its dramatic great hall and art collection featuring works by Gainsborough, Reynolds and Hogarth, as well as the Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I.
The house was recently restored in time for its 400th anniversary in 2016 with the addition of a major commission by the Turner-prize-winning artist Richard Wright. It remains free to visit.
Above: The sweeping lawns of the Cambridge American Cemetery.
Top left: Mosaic angel on the ceiling of the Memorial Chapel.
Bottom left: Wall map in the Memorial Chapel.
Top right: Mosaic ceiling and wall maps.
Bottom right: The wooden doors of the Memorial Chapel.